• Published 22nd Jul 2012
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Rites of Ascension - CvBrony



Twilight makes a new spell and starts the gears of fate with her ascension to alicornhood. (Writing started before Season 3.)

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Helping Hoof That Can't Be Touched

Twilight pulled off the headphones and breathed a sigh of relief. She'd just sent out another communique after “commandeering” the nearest town’s telegraph station. This telegraph had been longer than the others, but then again, a rampaging monster from the deepest, darkest abyss was something that she felt she had to report in detail. Hopefully, the pony decrypting her message on the other side didn't think her report was faulty, or that she was high and on a bad trip.

Looks like my “alicorn stamina” isn't here yet; I'm tired. But I can’t rest yet. I've got just enough of a lead on Farriér that I don't want to give up and sleep, not until he's behind bars and Rainbow is safe.

A meek little stallion poked his head in the room. “M-ma’am, are you done with the room? I've got a line, and they're getting impatient…”

“Yeah, I'm done. Sorry to barge in like that, but it was important.” Twilight hopped off the wobbly stool and popped a few vertebrae, then tossed some coins on the counter before taking her notes. “There's a tip for you.” She saw his eyes water at the size of the coin as she left the little booth and trotted by a line of five or six ponies waiting their turn.

The town that greeted her outside was larger than the little one she first visited in San Palomino; perhaps the size that Ponyville had been when she first moved there. It even seemed to have a more reliable water supply than the first town, if the hygiene of the locals was any indication.

“So,” Rose said as she came in for a landing. “Where to next, boss?”

“I'm not sure.” Twilight flipped to her map in her notebook. “We're pretty far from Los Caballos. I'd like to go there, but it would be night by the time we got there, and I'd prefer it if we could finish tracking him down before sunset. Hopefully RGIS gets back to me within the next hour or so, in which case I'd like to be near the telegraph station to get the message.

“To be honest, I'm tempted to send another message to ask Luna to teleport us over and skip the flight.”

Rose's mind seemed to skip a gear on that. “Wait, you mean teleport us to Los Caballos? She can do that?”

“Both the Princesses can. There are limits, but it's still crazy useful. I try to avoid asking them for it, since I'm supposed to make an effort to do things independently, but I think this situation is going to require the extra speed.”

Rose blinked. Twilight surmised that her brain just snapped a few neurons. “Ooookay…,” Rose eventually managed to say. “Then why don't we get lunch? I'm starved.”

Twilight nodded. “Good idea. I can't have you flying while hungry or dehydrated, especially in San Palomino. That's just asking for trouble.”

The two walked a short ways under the afternoon sun, ducking into the first restaurant with air conditioning they found. It was fancier than most places in the Duchy. The owners had to have imported a lot of materials and built the establishment with a plan in mind. It played to its location well, especially with the mural of settlers’ wagons telling the romanticized tale of hardy pioneers moving west.

Twilight asked for a table in the corner, which the hostess provided. The location would prevent attacks from behind her, and would allow her to watch the small crowd in case any of the customers were in the pocket of Farriér. While that seemed improbable, she didn't want to take any chances. “Improbable,” after all, was what happened to her every single day.

As she sat down, she shot a look at the suited stallion in the table next to her, but he was nose deep in the laminated menu and didn't seem to notice her. The other nearby tables were empty, and most of the rest of the tables had at least one patron eating at them and chatting away over the piano being played.

Rose looked around and scratched her chin. “I think I'm going to hit the little fillies’ room first. My hooves are a mess, and I'm willing to bet my mane needs a serious brushing. Back in a few.”

Twilight scooped up her own menu. “Fair enough. I'll be here.” She waited a minute or so, just long enough to ensure that her mercenary was out of earshot, before putting the menu down and yawning. Then, she smacked her lips, turned to the stallion in the suit next to her, and said, “So, you're really just going to ignore me, Illusionist? Nothing to say at all?”

The stallion put his menu down, revealing a knowing smirk. “Actually, I was going to let you eat first. Take care not to talk too loud; nopony but you can see or hear me.” He wore the same suit all the Illusionists did, and had the same colours, too: white mane, light blue coat, dark sunglasses. “Despite what you might think, I'm not here to fight. In fact, all of the Knights Templar have explicit orders not to kill you.”

“‘Knights Templar’? So that's what you call yourselves.” Twilight scribbled that into her notebook. “Any other information you want to divulge?”

“Believe it or not, that's exactly what I'm here to do.”

Twilight raised an eyebrow. “Seriously?”

“Seriously. Not so much about us, naturally, but about a mutual enemy: the Majestics. Farriér, your current target, is in league with them.”

Twilight ran a hoof through her mane and pretended to talk to her notes. “I find that hard to believe. Farriér seemed to have loyalty issues with his pirates, so they aren't under a geas, and the stallion himself definitely doesn't strike me as a pony that is willing to be at the beck and call of anypony, no matter how powerful they are. And I certainly can't see the control-loving Majestics aligning with such a chaotic element.”

The Templar stole a coffee from a nearby table and stirred in some cream. “The pirates are under a geas, but Farriér doesn’t have the resources to use a complete one, and the Majestics don't have any to lend. I'm not sure what the geas on them does, but I can say with certainty Farriér does have some level of the spell at his disposal.

“Beyond that, his involvement with the Majestics is relatively periphery. He is not their subordinate. He is a business partner. They allow him to use one of their old bases, and provide him with technology and the geas, and he goes after certain targets to steal resources for them. He gets to keep anything beyond what they designate. It's a mutually beneficial, if shaky, arrangement.”

Twilight put down her notebook and sucked in a breath, then whispered, “Okay. Here's what's going to happen. You're going to give me the location of that base, or I'm going to stop caring about how crazy I’ll look blowing this place up while kicking the crap out of you.”

The stallion held up his hooves. “If I knew, I would gladly tell you. In fact, I would gift wrap it in a card addressed to Celestia herself, complete with bow. And glitter.

“Unfortunately, I don't know. What I can tell you is that it's in the buttes and mesas west of Sierra Maredre. In fact, we're rather certain that the base is concealed and built inside one of the buttes. Figure out which, and you'll have Farriér on a platter. Who knows? Maybe you'll even find information on the Majestics.” He grabbed the coffee, a couple sugar packets, and got up to leave.

“Wait,” Twilight commanded. “What about Trixie? Why are you after her? Why torture her?”

The stallion snorted. “I'm not at liberty to discuss everything, nor do I know all the details. I can tell you that we are… no longer interested in her. You can tell her as much. Good day.”

“Wa-!” By the time the syllable left her mouth, he was gone. She fired the reveal spell a second later, but it was no use; nothing changed. Either the counter spell doesn't work anymore, he managed to teleport away, or he was never really there to begin with.

Twilight leaned back and sighed. I really don't need to add the Illusionistsor should I say the “Templars”to the pile of crazy here. Especially if they aren't getting in the way this time. She glanced at the menu and made a quick decision on what to eat, and before long, Rose was with her as they ate and drank their fill. Twilight spent the meal sketching the monster from earlier — carefully to scale, naturally — and collecting her notes.

On their twelfth glass of iced tea, Rose belched and asked, “What's wrong? I haven't known you long, but even I can tell you're thinking about something.”

Twilight leaned her head on her hoof. “A normally hostile group contacted me while you were in the restroom. They gave me information on our target. The base we're looking for is hidden inside one of the mesas or buttes.”

“And?” Rose asked. “That's a good thing, right?”

“Information is good, but I hate being used like this. On the one hoof, I am not their puppet. But on the other, I have to prioritize. They aren't as big a deal as what we're after now, and if the intel is actually good, I’d be a fool to pass it up just because of the source. Which means it's time to see if I have any messages at the tele--”

Boom!

Twilight and Rose shared a look while the windows rattled, then rushed outside. Clouds covered the sky in mere moments, and on a few occasions, lightning and thunder rent the heavens.

Rose stomped her hoof to deploy her guns. “We're ready for them this time!”

“Wait!” Twilight yelled, holding back her friend with a foreleg. “I don't think that was a cannon. I think…”

Krack-pow!

A chariot raced out of the swirling clouds, and it was every bit as dark and foreboding as the storm itself. Princess Luna wasted no time in leaping off it, then soared directly to Twilight while flanked by half a dozen members of the Night Guard.

She threw her hood back and looked Twilight in the eyes. “The monster in the canyon. Show me.”


“Ugh. What in the world…” Rainbow fought back against the pounding in her head, but it was futile. She could still feel a heavy steel pounding on her skull. Dried blood was on her teeth, and her thirst was great enough to split the flesh in the back of her mouth.

She tried to rub her head, or reach for her canteen, or do something, but her foreleg wouldn't move more than a few inches. All her efforts just caused a chain to jangle. “Aw, crap.”

“Well now, what have we he-ah?” a stallion with a thick accent asked. Farriér wasn't the most handsome of ponies up close. Scars crossed his cheeks, though most of them were hiding under his dense, dark, curly mane and beard. His red eyes glistened with a surprising intelligence, but they were devoid of mercy. There was only a cold cruelty in them. “Finally got our little stow-way. Or should I say spy?”

Rainbow winced at the sounds. His voice was loudbooming even. It wasn't the Royal Canterlot Voice by any means, but with her headache, it might as well have been. Then again, had it really been that, her head might have caved in and her heart exploded out of her chest. At least then her head would have stopped hurting.

She squinted and looked around. She was chained to a wall with her belly exposed, and locked in a cell with Farriér. She was still wearing her armor, but probably only because of the security locks on it. Anypony other than her or Twilight trying to pry it off was in for a literal shock.

That didn't stop a few pirates waiting outside the bars from grinning in ways she did not want to think about.

As far as the room itself, there was rust everywhere. The walls, ceiling, floor, bars, chains, binds: it was all rusty metal. A few tugs on her binds, though, told her that they hadn't decayed enough to be able to just break through them. Worse, there were magic suppressors built into the restraints keeping her on the wall. Lightning wouldn't help her now.

A good number of other ponies were in the other cells, though they weren't chained up as bad as she was. A few ideas on how they could help ran through her mind, but then her stomach sank and howled in rage. She could see tags attached to the other ponies’ irons and chains. Tags with numbers on them. Price tags.

Farriér stroked his beard with a wicked smile. “Don't you worry none about them. You're just too valuable to be selling off like that! I'd be a sure fool to just let you go! Why, I can scarcely believe my luck, getting a Wonderbolt like yourself!

“After all, I knew Twilight was in our midst when we took off. Wasn't rightly sure ‘bout anypony else. At least, not ‘til the bodies started turning up. Now that y'all are here, you can tell me all sorts-a things. Don't you worry none ‘bout what your friends might think. Y'all ain't never gonna see them again. I'm your only friend now, ya hear?”

Rainbow spat at his face. She missed.

“Well, that wasn't polite. Y'all done dirtied my little prison!” Farriér stood up and straightened his suit. “But don't y'all mind it none. It's your new home, after all. Oh, but where are my manners? I need to give you your housewarming gift!” He chuckled and eyed his pirates. “Bring it.”

Two of them walked in, one carrying a funnel attached to a tube, and another with a huge bucket.

Rainbow tried to fight. She tried to kick and squirm and bite and spit and scream, but one of the unicorns had her. Without her magic, she might as well have been a giant stuffed doll. The only thing she could fight while the tube was stuffed down her throat were the tears Spitfire had taught her never to show to her enemy.

“This here is my finest Elixir. Tastes good, don't it? Loosens the tongue and goes down smooth.” Farriér laughed. “Y'all might be stuck here, but y'all are still ‘bout to go on a trip! I'll let you soil yourself for a day or two. Let you see things y'all never thought you would.”

The binds tying her to the wall clicked loose, and she flopped limp to the ground. She coughed and gasped like a fish out of water, sucking in air now that her throat had been freed. With the air, though, came colours that bled into her vision, dancing like faeries.

“When y'all come back, you'll do anything for just one more drop. Then I'll be your very best friend.” Farriér cackled and howled with laughter as he left, locking both her cell door and the door to the prison behind him.

Rainbow twitched her wings while the colours faded. There were still the cuffs on her legs blocking her magic, and the other ponies looked as high as she would have been.

Unlike the others, though, she had Luna for a friend. The colours died out as quickly as they came, replaced with glowing blue lines on her body. Each was a little piece of art placed there by the Princess of the Night. The Elixir could try its hardest, but to her, it may as well have been water. Even her thirst was gone.

Big mistake, buttwipe. Rainbow pushed herself up on her hooves, and started examining her cage for weaknesses. “S.E.R.E.,” she whispered to herself. “Survive, Evade, Resist, Escape.”

It was a camp in the swampy, southern region of Manehatten; likely the same area Farriér was from. Every single Wonderbolt had to pass that camp to wear the uniform, and she did better than most. Farriér didn't count on her enchantments, and didn't keep her tied to the wall.

He was smart, and he had intel he shouldn't. He’d known just where and when to strike to get to Twilight, and had led Rainbow right into a trap. But... he was just a pony. There were things he didn't know, which meant she could beat him, get out, and call in the cavalry. All she needed was a little time, and that was exactly what he'd given her.

“Let’s do this.”


Twilight had never been to Stalliongrad, but at this point she was busy making vacation plans for it in her head. The canyon valley was hot. Actually, that statement was woefully inadequate. Summer in Ponyville was hot. Here, you could stir-fry dinner on the right rock.

Luna had been examining the aftermath for around ten minutes in complete silence. Some of Diamond Reign’s stallions had come by to try and be intimidating around their “turf,” but backed off the instant they realized they were up against the forces of the Night.

What was left was only a small portion of what the monster had been. Fire usually tended to be something of a purifying force, and the magic in the ground was eating away at the miasma sludge fairly quickly. On top of that, the bones of the entity were dissolving into more goo, which was, in turn, also being burned away.

“How big was it?” Luna asked, looking over her shoulder. “Be as accurate as possible.”

Twilight took out her notebook and showed Luna her sketch.

“Ah.” Luna breathed a sigh of relief. “Just a baby, then.”

“A baby?!” Rose choked on her canteen water. “That thing was a baby?! I nearly went insane when I saw it!”

“A baby, yes. And it isn't unheard of to go insane looking at them. Count yourself lucky.” Luna waved Twilight to a boulder a few dozen paces away. “Come, Grand Mage. We must speak privately.”

Twilight nodded and followed, leaving Rose under the ample protection of the Night Guard. Luna wasted no time placing a privacy shield over them.

“Empty Night!” Luna swore, suddenly looking sick to her stomach. “I thought the Titans extinct!”

“Titans?” Twilight asked, adding to her notebook. “Is that what they're called?”

“Yes, they were a… relatively common nuisance in the Old World, before Discord. In fact, there was a time when many ponies believed alicorns to be a gift sent from the heavens specifically to protect them from these monsters. They don't often go near population centers, for some reason, but when they do, they can wipe entire cities from the map if left unchallenged.

“For all our knowledge and wisdom, we've never learned where they come from, or what they are, other than that they exist and must be fought. A full grown Titan is more than a match for anything short of an ascendant well on his or her way to full alicornhood. Should you encounter one, Twilight, run. Even if it's about to hit a city, run. That's an order.”

Twilight's ears drooped. “But—”

“No buts. Any Titan more advanced than the one you faced will kill you, pure and simple. Better you live and let ponies run for themselves, than that you die along with the others. Get word to me, and I'll deal with it. I have thousands of years of experience with these monsters. You don't. What you faced was only a taste of their power.”

Twilight felt the colour drain from her face as she nodded. “D-Diamond Reign said they'd found them before. She dove in its mouth and crushed its heart.”

Luna's colour drained away. “Then it's confirmed. They're back.” She fought against a shudder. “Stars and stones and Summerlands preserve us.”

Twilight nudged a pebble on the ground. “Is that really the only way to beat them? From inside?”

The Princess shook her head. “It's one way, and never a certain thing. Most of the others involve copious firepower. Your instinct to use purifying light was a good one - but that spell is too costly for you to have won with it outright. You could have drained yourself dry and not finished it off. I'll review the documents on them that are left, and talk with Sister. She is better at fighting them than I am... or she was, then.”

“Yeah, but…” Twilight swallowed, thinking about all the little towns across San Palomino. “We need something more than that. Just in case.”

“What did you have in mind?”

“I don't know. Yet. Give me some time, I have a lot to work on here.” Twilight put her notebook away. “Speaking of, I need your help. Can you teleport Rose and me?”

“Of course, though I won't be able to stay for very long after that. I have much to do in light of these events.” Luna moved to dispel the shield, but paused. “Who is this ‘Rose,’ by the way? A new friend?”

“Yes. She's a bounty hunter I bumped into out here. The circumstances of our meeting tell me she's on the level, and she knows a lot about this region. I hired her in the short term to fly me around and advise me.”

“Fair enough. I'll have RGIS look into her, just in case, but I'll trust your instincts.” Luna dispelled the shield with a wave of her hoof. “Come, there is work to be done.”

They walked back to the group, and only Rose seemed curious as to what was going on. The Night Guard knew they would be told what they needed to know, and accepted it with an almost unnerving casualness.

“Twilight,” Rose said, shaking. “W-what was this thing? Are we going to have to fight more of them? Because if so, I don't think I can follow you anymore.”

Luna raised an eyebrow at Twilight, which was shrugged off.

Twilight put a reassuring hoof on Rose's shoulder. “It’s called a Titan. There may be more, though we won't fight them unless it is absolutely necessary. And if we do, your role will be to run as fast as you can, probably with me next to you, so we can get Luna. You can— well, I shouldn't say ‘relax,’ but at least you can put them out of your mind for now. As much as you can.”

“Are—” Rose cringed and grabbed her head, flinching like something was about to hit it. “Are you sure? I'm going to have nightmares about that for ages. And the ones I already have are bad enough already!”

Luna's horn flashed to life for an instant, then bathed Rose in a blue glow.

“What the?” Rose rubbed her legs like she was trying to touch the glow.

“Thou mentioned nightmares, didst thou not?” Luna smiled. “That spell should keep them away; for a time, at least. However, unless you take action on the root of them, they shall return. I recommend seeing an accredited physician or psychiatrist.”

Rose’s jaw dropped. “Just like that? A one-second spell?”

Luna puffed out with pride. “We are the Alicorn of the Night, which includes dreams. We have known and cast that spell for many, many centuries. ‘Tis second nature by now.”

“Wow.” Rose watched as the glow faded. “You alicorns are something else. I think I see now why you're a princess.”

“We are a princess because We created this nation, my little pony. We forged it from naught but mud and grit. Though, We will admit agelessness and power are a part of things.” Luna clopped her hooves to signal her guards. “Come, my little ponies. We depart for Los Caballos.

“Rose, you will want to stay within five meters of the rear of my chariot, and prepare thyself. Mass teleportation is less stable than moving one or two ponies, and often results in some nausea. ‘Tis unpleasant, but it passes quickly.”

Rose swallowed. “Yes, Your Majesty.”

Moments later, the two chariots took off through the air, then through Luna's vortex of power to Los Caballos.


Twilight waited for her stomach to settle before opening her eyes. She had an idea of what to expect from the city, though the descriptions didn't quite do it justice.

Los Caballos was a monument to private industry. The major mining, defense, logistics, and pharmaceutical companies had relocated their headquarters here in order to dodge the higher taxes of the other Duchies. The amount they wound up spending to build the city, however, and the amount they'd wind up spending to maintain it, mostly negated the savings.

Regardless, the actual, physical city itself was a marvel. Tall skyscrapers stood atop a mesa, seemingly reaching all new heights simply by virtue of being built on the high ground. Each was designed to complement the philosophy and brand of the parent company, though most chose some kind of art deco design, as it was en vogue.

Below the mesa was an extension of the town that was far less shiny and impressive. A major mining operation had been built next to the city (though not under it, at least, as it would have imperiled the skyscrapers). The buildings in the mining area were dingy and minimalist to the point of hazardous, much like in Sierra Maredre, although none were so tall that they would be a major hazard in a collapse. Only the actual facilities for the mining looked like something more than hastily-put-together sheet metal. Ponies were actively toiling away under the hot sun, removing layer after layer of stone from the ground in backbreaking work.

They had one luxury most labourer ponies in San Palomino didn't, though: plentiful water. The city was not only built on a mesa, but over a river. The entirety of the mesa part of the city was lifted up over the surface of the ground to allow the river underneath to flow. It cascaded over the edge of the mesa in a grand waterfall, chilling the air with icy water. Los Caballos had no worries about hydration, and it flaunted that wealth with water features on the skyscrapers and numerous plaza fountains.

“Wow.” Rose yelled to Twilight. “She really did get us to Los Caballos! Thousands of kilometers in an instant…”

Twilight let herself have a smirk. “Yeah. You get used to it, eventually. I can see how it's pretty incredible, though.”

“I don't think I'd ever be able to ‘get used to it.’ But we have a job to do right now. Where to?”

“See if you can find the headquarters of the Core Mining Company. They're the company with the highest profit margins on their mines. They likely have good data I can use.”

“Gotcha. Heading in.”

They zoomed up and down the roads, threading through the towers before finding their target. It was a relatively short tower nestled near the outer edge of the city, done up in one-way glass and a gold-painted facade. Bright spotlights were in place to light it up during the night, though they would be useless now in the middle of the day. A small water feature was out front, adding to a constant background noise of running water.

They pulled in front of the tower and parked their little cart on the street. Ponies walked to and fro, and chariot taxis hauled passengers around. By all appearances, it was a regular city. Regardless, Twilight couldn't help but feel an emptiness about it. There was something missing, though she couldn't put her hoof on it.

“Ahem!” A pony coughed at them to get their attention. “What do you think you're doing? You can't park that piece of junk the—”

Twilight turned to face the stallion, and found a pegasus in something akin to an officer's uniform, though the shield he wore said “Security” rather than “Police.” The colour was draining right out of his coat as his eyes locked on to Twilight's torc.

“You're… You're… The Grand Mage?!”

“Yup,” Twilight said, taking off her cloak and hat and stuffing them in her bags. “And thus, allowed to park my ‘piece of junk’ here. Go ahead and tow it if you want, but be prepared for RGIS to descend on this place like a swarm of locusts if you do. Rose, follow me.”

They left the security guard blinking and scratching his head, likely wondering what the heck to do and why it wasn't covered in the corporate employee manual which must never, ever be deviated from.

“I kinda feel sorry for that guy.” Rose chuckled. “We pull up in my ancient, beaten up old cart, he gets ready to chew us out, and then out steps the freaking Grand Mage of Equestria. I think we broke him. Do you think we broke him?”

“He’ll be okay. A random ‘illegally’ parked cart he can't ticket isn't the worst thing that can ruin your day.” Twilight pushed open the front doors of a tower, stepping into a vast reception area. Curved staircases led up on either side to a mezzanine with small shops and restaurants, while a welcome desk stood steadfast in the center to direct visitors. “First things first.”

“Hello, how can I—I—” The receptionist mare blinked. “Holy horseapples…”

“Yeah, it's me.” Twilight let herself have some self-satisfaction. Finally, some recognition to make her job easier. “I need to speak to whomever is in charge of your prospecting. It's urgent.”

“Oh! Um, okay, let's see…” The mare pulled out a planner and flipped through some pages. “I… don't think that's going to be possible.”

“How come?” Twilight folded her forelegs. “This is a top priority, ma'am. National security matters. If he or she is busy, they need to make time. Immediately.”

“It's not that. According to this, Mr. Goals is on site at one of our mines today. Site 47.” The mare slid out a large map, one of many stacked in her desk. “It's some time away, I'm afraid. Even by chariot.”

“Ah.” Twilight made note of the location on her notebook and grabbed the map for good measure. “That's unfortunate, but we have means to get there. Thank you for your help. Rose? On me.”

The two left out the doors and back to the cobbled-together pieces of wood generously called a cart. Rose strapped herself in. “So, Twilight, are we going to fly to the top and bust in that way?”

“Nah.” Twilight drew a line on the map, guesstimating where the nearest leyline ran, which happened to be right next to Site 47. “Nothing there struck me as particularly nefarious. I bet this Mr. Goals really is just out on site. Besides…” She glanced up at a lone dark cloud hovering high overhead. “It'll just take us a moment to get there.”

Author's Note:

Not much to say here this time. Chapter up, Patreon will be updated soon, couple blogs up, ordered a new keyboard I hope will help with my hands, and I’m still a anxious wreck! In particular, I'm not 100% sure of this chapter's title. Ah well, deadlines. I would've posted earlier but I was so tired it hurt, so I needed a nap so I could do a final check on things with a clear head.

Hope you guys enjoyed this one. Happy Halloween, and thanks again for sticking with me!

-Cv

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